Saturday, July 31, 2021
Wary of subscriptions
I am so old, I actually remember a time before the internet. And it might surprise you to hear that the people who are now trying to scam you and sell you something of little value for lots of your money already existed before the internet. Only they operated via print ads or even door-to-door salesmen. So one of the things I learned early in life was that one of the preferred business models of scammers is the subscription. Presumably a lot of people have problems with calculating how much a $10 per month subscription ends up costing them per year. More realistically, the amount of money you are willing to pay for something depends on your enthusiasm for that something, and that enthusiasm is likely to be highest when that something is new to you. So those $10 a month sound like a good deal in the first month, but maybe half a year later you barely look at whatever service is provided or product you’re receiving regularly, and the $10 are far more than you would pay now.
Somebody recommended Ted Lasso to me, at which point I realized I have a subscription to Apple TV+ which shows it. In my defense, I’m still on the first free year that came with buying an Apple TV box. But this is one of the weirder subscriptions in that you lose access *immediatedly* when you cancel, and not only at the end of the free period. So I will have to watch out and cancel this just before I have to actually pay for it in October. Apple TV, in my opinion, is totally not worth paying for, because it has very little content, and even less of it that actually interests me. Ted Lasso would only be the third show I watched in a year on Apple TV+, after Mythic Quest and The Morning Show. For me, personally, the best TV show subscription deal is Amazon Prime Video, because it comes for free as part of a package, and I pay less in subscription per year than the shipping fees I save (especially in pandemic years). The only other subscription for TV content I have is Netflix, and that used to be better than it is now, because when I started Netflix still had content from various TV chains on it. These days, each of these content providers has their own streaming service, and if I wanted to have access to everything, I would need to a) move to the US (many of them aren’t available in Europe) and b) pay $100 or so every month to get the same scope that Netflix used to have when it started streaming.
Video game subscription services are still relatively new, but I can see the same thing happening there. Right now, the Microsoft Xbox Game Pass for PC has games from different publishers, including big names like EA. It would be a lot less good deal if each of those publishers pulled their games from the Game Pass and asked me for another $10 per month to access them. But even if each subscription service would have the same number of games that the Game Pass would have now, it would be bad for me as consumer: I would either have to pay for all of them, or not have access to all the games that are “exclusive” for the services I subscribe to. Ideally in such a situation I’d need to set up a rotation, playing all the games on one subscription service for three months, then cancel and switch to the next one. That would be complicated.
Ultimately, the limiting factor is my available leisure time. Ten times as much content for ten times the money is not a good deal, because I don’t have ten times the time to consume the content. And there video streaming is competing with games subscriptions for my time. But obviously a multitude of subscriptions is also a risk to personal finances, as one easily loses track of them. I am especially critical of non-game software, which I might only need once in a while. I don’t want to pay a monthly subscription fee to Microsoft for using Word or Excel, I don’t use them all that often privately. And these days even all sorts of gadgets come with a subscription, up to and including doorbells Instead of having door-to-door salesmen persuading you to buy a magazine subscription you don’t really need, now the doorbell itself takes your subscription money. I think they call it progress.